Mathematical ecology is usually offered as a concentration or research area for mathematics-based graduate degree programs at the master's or doctoral levels. These degree programs include coursework and training in the various areas of math used to describe biological and ecological concepts. Find out about some of the differences for these programs at the master's and doctoral levels.
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Master's vs. Doctorate of Mathematical Ecology
Master of Science in Mathematics/Master of Biomathematics
Students interested in studying mathematical ecology can pursue a Master of Science (MS) in Mathematics or a Master of Biomathematics graduate program and focus their electives and/or research in this field. These programs are usually interdisciplinary in nature, but may allow students to pursue more of a mathematical degree while still experiencing lab and field work for the ecology side of the degree. Students pursuing an MS in Mathematics may complete around 30 credits and choose from a thesis, coursework or project option for the culminating experience. Coursework for these programs may cover topics in modeling biological systems, biomathematics and ecology. Graduates of these degree programs may work math- or biology-focused careers in the government, industry or academia.
Doctor of Philosophy in Mathematical Ecology/Biomathematics
At the doctoral level, students can pursue a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Mathematics or Applied Mathematics with a concentration in mathematical ecology/biology or a PhD in Biomathematics. Research for these degree programs can include a wide range of biological topics, such as conservation biology, population genetics and ecology, wildlife management, evolution and more, while applying various areas of mathematics, like statistics and scientific computing. Students in these degree programs are usually required to complete seminars, comprehensive exams and a dissertation for graduation. These programs are usually flexible to allow students to pursue coursework in various areas of interest, but students may take courses in analysis, computational mathematics, stochastics, biomathematics, differential equations and mathematical ecology. Graduates of doctoral programs may work advanced teaching and/or research positions in biology, statistics or mathematics departments on college campuses or for the government and/or work as consultants.
Common Entrance Requirements
Applicants to graduate degree programs in the field of mathematical ecology must have at least a bachelor's degree and some programs may prefer the degree to be in mathematics, engineering, a natural science or another related field. Typically, programs like to see that students have advanced knowledge in mathematics and/or biology and competitive applicants may have had coursework in areas like biology, calculus and algebra. Most of these programs do require the GRE and some may have a minimum GPA requirement, usually around a 3.0. Students usually need to include their transcripts, letters of recommendation and a personal statement or statement of interest with their application. Some programs, usually at the doctoral level, may also like to see a student's resume.
Students can pursue a Master, MS or PhD in Biomathematics or Mathematics with a focus in mathematical ecology. Graduates of these programs can work in similar careers, but doctoral programs are usually longer, require a dissertation and prepare students for more advanced positions.